In a 1981 essay, Kentucky farmer and author Wendell Berry tells how small farmers find ways to solve many problems at once – what he calls “solving for pattern. . . as when meat animals are fed on the farm where the feed is raised, and where the feed is raised to be fed to the animals that are on the farm.”
The farmer, writes Berry, sees a pattern of mutual dependence between plants and animals “that is biological, not industrial,” that reveals “solutions to problems of fertility, soil husbandry, economics, sanitation” and preserves “the health of the soil, of plants and animals, of farm and farmer, of farm family and farm community.”
MAIN’s relationship with our mountain region is “biological, not industrial,” unlike the faceless, absentee-owned networks that control most rural telecommunications, invest minimally, and take our money but outsource our jobs.
MAIN, by contrast, is “solving for pattern,” tackling many problems at once:
* bringing Internet access with a local phone call to 12 mountain counties in 1996, when most folks had to call long-distance to reach the Internet;
* providing the first public Internet access at more than 30 public libraries and community centers;
* serving hundreds of home-bound citizens with disabilities with recycled computers and free – or reduced-fee – Internet access;
* keeping Internet dollars and jobs local, while becoming a technology, social capital, and innovation partner for small businesses, nonprofits and local governments;
* promoting a return to rural “self-help” traditions via local networks, reversing decades of dependence on companies whose allegiance is to Wall Street, not Main Street;
* creating new venues for citizen speech via WNC’s first public access TV channel and low-power FM radio station;
* developing a new business model for journalism, whereby citizens spend their Internet dollars to support local voices.
That’s not all. As the telephone and cable companies embrace “deep packet inspection” technologies – to track our Internet use – protecting privacy and civil liberties will increasingly fall to local broadband networks like MAIN and our local fiber-network partners, ERC Broadband, BalsamWest, PANGAEA, and French Broad EMC.
While Congress may restore “net neutrality,” we know that regulations can be reversed, watered-down, or simply ignored in the name of “national security.” Local networks have no need for expensive “deep packet inspection” technology.
The stakes are even greater for those of you still limited to dial-up, as our physical, economic and community health increasingly require affordable, high-speed Internet access. Your “Life Without Broadband” stories dramatically illustrated that the progress many of you made via the Internet is slipping away.
Fortunately, bipartisan concern and a new FCC give us hope that the broadband crisis will soon be addressed. Yet we still may see powerful lobbyists enforce a “solution” giving even more subsidies to absentee-owned networks, a policy that has repeatedly failed for a simple reason: Wall Street business models do not work in rural and low-income urban communities.
So we’re asking for your help!
MAIN is one of the few independent ISPs to survive “deregulation,” which ceded control of the Internet to telephone and cable companies. We survived via salary and staff cuts, and investing every available dollar in our wireless broadband network.
And we never stopped fighting for Internet Freedom and affordable broadband access!
Please make a generous donation during our Labor Day Week Fund Drive to ensure that our voices are heard loud and strong in Congress and at the FCC in the months ahead.
(And check out our special Labor Day Week interviews, plus special coverage of President Obama’s speech to Congress and the Supreme Court’s hearing on a case that could remove all limits on corporate money in federal elections.)
With your past support, our region has emerged as a national leader in local broadband and public media infrastructure (featured in CNN/Money, National Public Radio, Connecticut Public Radio, Newsweek, and Democracy Now!, and showcased at New America Foundation and Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Southern California).
PS – Has media reform ever been more critical? If Fox News and right-wing radio can block healthcare reform favored by most Americans, what else might they do?